Be still, my heart: The single most transcendent moment of a lifetime covering politics occurred Tuesday night, and you poor schnerks in Televisionland missed it because the R's didn't have the guts to put House Speaker Newt Gingrich on during prime time.
Okay, here's what you missed: Gingrich explained freedom to us. It's beach volleyball.
I know, at first it's a little confusing, but follow closely. This is the new, cuddly Newt Gingrich, not the old, mean Newt Gingrich. We know this because the video bio about him consisted of pictures of Newt being kind to children, including a black one _ not Newt kicking them off welfare or shipping them off to orphanages. We saw Newt smiling, Newt laughing, Newt with a cuddly animal.
Then, Newt himself appeared and started talking about freedom. Suddenly, he turns to introduce a young man wearing a gold medal and informs us that this is the first citizen ever to win an Olympic medal for beach volleyball. You still don't get it, but persevere.
Then, Newt explains to us that beach volleyball is a game that people started playing on beaches all by themselves, without government bureaucrats telling them how to do it. Gradually, the people organized themselves into leagues and began playing competitive beach volleyball, and after 20 years, they got beach volleyball accepted as an Olympic sport, all without government help.
"That," said Speaker Gingrich, "is what freedom is all about."
Aaaahhh, I hear you say, now I understand. Now, for the first time, I get what freedom is all about.
Further, Newt explained, beach volleyball was accepted by the International Olympic Committee, which itself does not contain a single government bureaucrat! Leaving aside the fact that the IOC is one of the most notorious sinks of bureaucratic awfulness in the history of man, setting aside the fact that it's run by a nest of hideous old fascists (see the Nation, July 29-Aug. 6), and blithely ignoring the complete lack of accountability for how the IOC spends its billions, we are to conclude that the IOC is dandy simply because it is not a government bureaucracy.
Nope, it's an awful snake pit of bribery, corruption and fascists, but it is _ hallelujah _ a private bureaucracy. And it's so brilliantly run that various levels of government had to pony up $354-million to put on the Olympics in Atlanta, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. And that's what freedom is all about.
This same zany conviction that nothing said here need make any sense pervaded the entire convention. Bob Dole said Wednesday morning that he will increase military spending without touching Social Security or Medicare, thus completing the famous Reagan prescription for economic disaster: Cut taxes, increase spending, and the budget will balance all by itself. Promise.
Naturally, we all bashed government at the Republican convention, especially Washington. Government is terrible, dreadful and awful, which is why we should vote for Dole (who has been a major player in it for 36 years) and Jack Kemp (for 22 years).
The government of the United States of America was demonized, vilified and used as a fire hydrant by every speaker at the convention in terms that would have made the old Soviet Politburo blush, but all these folks are patriots, so it was okay. The country is going to hell; its moral fiber is rotting; we are beset on all sides by immigrants who come here to go on welfare, murderers of unborn children, militant homosexuals, criminals, drug addicts, sex-crazed teenagers and layabouts on food stamps _ but this is the greatest country on Earth.
It's hard to think of a sillier place for a major political party to take a monumentally dumb stand on immigration than San Diego. Here it stands, living proof that almost every argument against immigration is pure horse puckey.
San Diego is closer to Tijuana than Fort Worth is to Dallas. Although the California-Mexico border bristles with Border Patrol and high-tech equipment, it is just as porous as Texas' own beloved border.
By day, the speakers at the Republican convention inveighed against the perils of immigration; by night, the litter they left behind was cleaned up by brown-skinned people who "no habla." As Peter King of the Los Angeles Times notes, the Republicans' drinks were served, their dishes washed, their towels and sheets changed, their toilets cleaned and their meals prepared by the very people they want to boot across the border because, of course, they only come here to go on welfare.
Molly Ivins is a columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.